Day two of Oilers Orientation Camp has commenced as the prospects have hit the ice for a morning of hard work in Jasper.
Stay tuned for news, videos and more on Edmontonoilers.com.
- FEATURE: Prospects Eager to get Started
- BLOG: Bear Signs ELC
- BLOG: Caggiula Ready for Professional Career
- BLOG: Benson Ready to Prove Worth
- BLOG: Orientation Camp Kicks Off
- OILERS TODAY | Development Camp Day 1
- CAMP RAW | Drake Caggiula
- CAMP RAW | Ethan Bear
- CAMP RAW | Tyler Benson
As 36 Oilers prospects prepare to descend on Jasper for a week of orientation, Oilers prospect Ethan Bear is celebrating a little more than his second camp, having just signed his entry-level contract with the organization today.
“It feels amazing,” said Bear. “You know I work very hard during the season and in the off season and it feels really rewarding to sign with Edmonton is a real big honour.”
Coming off a strong season recording 19 goals and 46 assists for 65 points in 69 games with the Western Hockey League’s Seattle Thunderbirds, the blueliner said he worked hard and felt he improved in many areas of his game.
“Transitions, tight turn, lateral movement, especially defending in my own zone, boxing out players in front, and especially getting my shots through — I think those things really paid off for me.”
As an experienced orientation camp-goer, Bear has an idea of what to expect this year and is ready for the upcoming week.
“I guess the experience from last year, knowing what I’m coming up against and knowing how much work you have to put into it and to learn, how much you’ve got to pay attention and put in detail. I know I’m expected to do that and it’s going to be another fun camp.”
The Edmonton Oilers have signed defenceman Ethan Bear to a three-year entry level contract.
Bear, 19, appeared in 69 games with the Western Hockey League’s (WHL) Seattle Thunderbirds last season, posting 65 points (19G, 46A), 33 penalty minutes and a plus 14 rating. He led all Seattle defencemen in scoring and also posted a team high 12 power play goals.
The 5’11”, 197-pound blueliner has appeared in 197 career WHL games, accumulating 122 points (38G, 84A), 74 penalty minutes and a plus 16 rating.
After a successful — and final — season with the 2016 national champion University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks hockey team, Drake Caggiula is ready for the first chapter of his professional hockey career.
“It’s a dream come true,” he said. “Obviously, you want to be a professional hockey player since you’re a young kid, that’s what you dream about and the National Hockey League’s the biggest goal. Now that school’s all done, I just have to worry about focussing on hockey and I couldn’t ask for anything more than that. Hockey is what I love, it’s my passion.’
One of 36 prospects attending this years Orientation Camp, Caggiula is preparing himself physically and mentally for what can only be perceived as a change of pace in the world of hockey.
“[Professional hockey], I think it’s a little different than college hockey,” he said. “It’s a much bigger, faster, stronger, smarter [game], and I know there’s going to be an adjustment period. But at the same time I think I’m a quick learner and hope I can learn as quick as possible and really get accustomed to the pro game and hopefully it turns out well for myself.”
Caggiula, who signed with the Oilers as a college free-agent on May 8, wrapped up his senior season with the Hawks recording 25 goals and 26 assists for 51 points in 39 games and helped lead the team to a national championship title.
Now, with school behind him camp becoming his sole focus this week, the 22-year-old is ready for what lies ahead.
“You want to show them that you’re prepared and that you’re working out throughout the summer and making sure that — you know it’s still July — but you want to make sure and let everyone know you’ve been putting in the work and getting ready for the summer and getting ready for camp and early fall.
“I think it’s a good time to get your feet wet and kind of show off what you have. It’s still an orientation camp, you’re not going to make the team or get cut from the team at this camp, but at the same time, it’s kind of good to get your foot in the door and show what you’re capable of.”
There’s no doubt about it, it was a frustrating junior year for Oilers prospect Tyler Benson.
The 6-foot, 201-pound forward of the Western Hockey League’s Vancouver Giants started the year off recovering from an injury and faced a string of adversities throughout the remainder of the season.
“I had surgery at the very beginning of the year before the season even started,” said Benson. “Then, throughout the year, I just had some nagging injuries I had to take care of and [that I’m] still dealing with a little bit now, trying to get healthy.
But it eventually paid off when the Edmonton native was selected by the Oilers in the second round, 32nd overall, at the 2016 NHL Draft. Now, Benson isn’t shying away at the opportunity that lies in front of him at this year's orientation camp.
“It’s surreal,” he said. “Growing up, watching this team play, cheering for them, and now to be a part of the organization, it’s pretty special.
“They have confidence in me and I want to be able to show them well. I think they made a good decision taking me so I want to be able to prove that.”
Last season, Benson recorded nine goals and 19 assists for 28 points in 30 games.
Prospects have filed into Rexall Place for day one of the 2016 Oilers Orientation Camp, starting their day with medicals and fitness testing.
Stay locked-in to edmontonoilers.com for stories and videos throughout the day.
- FEATURE: Milan Lucic: a deal, a decade in the making
- Oilers sign Lucic
- BLOG: Chiarelli welcomes Lucic
- Oilers sign Jonas Gustavsson
- BLOG: Oilers sign Mark Fraser
- BLOG: Gustavsson recognizes Talbot's growth
- BLOG: Gustavsson knows role, ready to support
- BLOG: The Chiarelli-Lucic Connection
- BLOG: Chiarelli Feels Team is Improved
- OILERS TODAY | Free Agent Frenzy
- REACTION | Gazzola & Stauffer on Today's Action
- 1-ON-1 | Tom Gazzola with Milan Lucic
- RAW | Peter Chiarelli Press Conference
- RAW | Milan Lucic Press Conference
The Oilers aren’t done looking for ways to improve their roster, but they did conclude their free agency spending on day one feeling much better about the state of the team.
Oilers President of Hockey Operations and General Manager Peter Chiarelli patched a big hole on defence by adding defenceman Adam Larsson via trade before free agency opened. On Friday, the Oilers added a top-line winger in Milan Lucic to help fill the void left by Taylor Hall’s exit in the Larsson trade. Chiarelli also added backup goalie competition by signing Jonas Gustavsson, and some physical blueline depth for the farm with Mark Fraser.
“We’ve improved our team significantly,” said Chiarelli. “We’ve added what I assess as a top defenceman. He’s going to be a two at some point, Larsson. We’ve added Milan Lucic, who is going to help lead this team. He’s going to play a physical style of hockey, he’s going to score, he’s got a really nice set of hands. We lost a really good player, Taylor, and who was a real significant part of this team but I feel we improved by the style of player we’ve brought in and the approach to the game.”
As for adding another defenceman or making another move, that may come down the road.
“I’m really happy with what we’ve done the last few days,” said Chiarelli. “I’m gonna let the dust settle a little bit before we go out looking again. But really happy with what we’ve done. There’s been some change and some attitude change based on what we’ve done and, at this point and time, I’m quite satisfied.”
Milan Lucic was one of Peter Chiarelli’s first draft picks as general manager of the Boston Bruins in 2006. Now the two are reunited in Edmonton, after Lucic signed a seven-year deal with the club on the opening day of free agency.
That relationship played a part in reeling in the big fish of free agency.
“It helps. It helps a lot,” said Lucic. “Obviously, I got to spend eight years with him in Boston and he’s always been great to me and he’s always put the right pieces in place at the right time. It definitely is a vote of confidence when you know the GM is going to do the right thing to benefit the team. I think that’s the main thing, is making the team better and not always individuals better. Because it’s a team sport, the best team usually wins. He’s going to do whatever he can to make sure he has the best team.”
Chiarelli used the shopping period to reconnect with an old friend and rekindle that Boston bond.
“That made his visit a lot more comfortable and it was also fun just to reconnect,” said Chiarelli. “Once I left Boston, I didn’t really have the chance to see or talk to anybody. I always enjoyed my time talking to him in Boston and I like to hear his thoughts on the game and on players. He knows all the players in the league and how they play and stats. Very insightful guy.”
It just so happened the prior relationship also made it easier for the free agent to sign in Edmonton.
“There’s a lot of familiarity there with me and Milan,” said Chiarelli. “You can tell he’s a very sincere individual and he’s a terrific, impactful player. He’s going to change a lot of things here just by the way he plays and the way he leads. I’ve known him for a long time. I’ve seen him grow as a person, and I’m so excited to have him here.”
Chiarelli showed Lucic and his wife the new arena, they walked the downtown area and spoke about the city. But in the end, Lucic was sold on Chiarelli and the young talent on the roster, making it an easy choice despite being offered more money and longer term by other teams.
“It doesn’t surprise me one bit,” said Chiarelli. “He’s not in it for the money, and I know you hear that with every free agent signing. It doesn’t surprise me. You’ll learn that Milan is like that. It doesn’t surprise me.”